We flew from Amsterdam to Copenhagen. That is to say, we sat in an aircraft that did the actual flying. It’s not far, an eighty-minute flight. We wouldn’t be staying in the city, just passing through to join the Norwegian Sun for our nine-day Baltic cruise. We were going to take the train from the airport to the sea port. It’s much cheaper than a taxi and it’s all good fun anyway, isn’t it?
We worked out which lines we’d need and where to change over from one route to another, then we were off, dragging our suitcases with carry-on bags and cameras hung off our bodies. Getting to the port wasn’t too bad, although we’d both had about enough of trundling along platforms and up and down lifts by the time we arrived. We could see the upper decks of a couple of ships from the platform but getting there was another matter. The exits from the station went to the land side of the track. It wasn’t all that far, less than a kilometre, but it was a warm day and we were about over it. We spied a taxi rank over the road from the station and waited. It was the weekend and it seemed taxi drivers didn’t bother coming out here much. In the end we looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders, and headed for the underpass under the railway line towing and carrying our luggage.
We arrived at the ship hot and bothered and joined the queue for security checks, much like at an airport but not as strict. To our surprise, we were called over to the desk. We’d bought a nice bottle of scotch at the duty-free in Schiphol so we could have a drink in our cabin. The scotch was confiscated but we were assured it would be returned when we disembarked. In other words, you buy your booze from us. We checked. The condition was included in the fine print on the booking.
We went to our balcony room and unpacked. The ‘balcony’ was more like a ledge, wide enough for a chair, but it was a nice place to watch the ships go by. The Baltic carries a lot of traffic.
After a cursory safety session, we were off. We would be sailing overnight and be docked at our first port by morning.
First port was Warnemünde in what used to be East Germany. The ship offered excursions (at extra cost) for every port of call and today’s trip was by train to Berlin, about two hundred kilometres away. After around three and a half hours on the train through Germany, guests would be taken on a bus tour of the city before catching the train back to the ship. Pete and I leaned on the ship’s rail watching group after group of passengers walk from the ship to the train. To each his/her own, but seven hours on a train and an hour on a bus didn’t appeal.
The little port at Warnemünde was pretty and the old Hanseatic town of Rostock was a short local train trip away. Although Rostock had been an important port in the Middle Ages it had deteriorated under communist rule. Since the reunification of Germany, however, the inhabitants lost no time in renovating their city. And it’s gorgeous, with houses in bright colours, a beautifully renovated city hall and more restorations going on everywhere. We did a lot of walking there, going down the hill to the old port where ships would berth back in the days of the Hanseatic League,
We walked into the town square opposite the town hall where merchants were setting up for a market. It was a lovely sunny day and we strolled along admiring beautiful vegetables, bread, small goods, and fish. Pete spied jellied eels, a delicacy hard to come by in Australia, and enjoyed a plate of them. We took a picture to show to Pete’s brother, who would be green with envy. (I passed – not my thing. I had a hot dog, a German sausage in a warm bun with mustard. Yum.)
But having bought the food, we were all out of cash and we would need some to buy train tickets from the machine to get back to the ship. No problem. We’d find a bank or an ATM. The search took us down the town’s main street but we ended up having to ask. No ATMs but the bank was around the corner. Banks are very different in Germany. No rows of tellers behind screens. We eventually were taken to a desk and sat opposite a lady. We couldn’t change any of our foreign currency, I’ve forgotten why. Well, that made things difficult. How did we pay for tickets? Oh well. We caught the train, anyway, and hoped we didn’t encounter a ticket inspector. We didn’t.
Back in Warnemünde, we strolled around the fishing boat harbour. Some of our fellow passengers were doing the same, checking out the rows of shops offering clothes, souvenirs, and art. And fish and chips. The local seagulls are much bigger than our silver gulls, but they have the same penchant for chips – and they’re pirates, taking any opportunity to steal your lunch. We also admired some sand sculptures before we headed back to the ship for a pre-dinner drink and to watch the ship set sail.
In most places, the captain used thrusters along the sides of the ship to manoeuvre in and out of harbour. No tug boats required. The only exception was St Petersburg and I suspect that was a Russian requirement.
Next stop would be Tallin, capital of Estonia.
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